Learning models of addiction

writing in purple is A02 and A03, writing in black is A01

psychology unit 4 aqa a A2

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  • Created on: 15-06-12 13:02

Operant conditioning

Initiation - positive reinforcement - positive reinforcement results in an increase in dopamine in an area of the brain called the mesolimbic system - this effect can be produced by natural reinforcers such as food or by addictive drugs such as cocaine, nicotine - White - or by anything pleasureable such as gambling - Griffiths - slot machine addiction - physiological rewards - getting a buzz from winning - psychological rewards - near miss and social rewards such as peer praise and financial rewards from winning

maintenance and relapse - negative reinforcement - after repeated exposure to certain drugs, withdrawal symptoms appear if the drug is stopped - because withdrawal effects are unpleasant, any reduction in these acts as a negative reinforcement such as taking the drug again - relapse

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Operant conditioning

Strengths of operant conditioning - operant conditioning requires no conscious awareness which explains why addicts can still experience a conscious desire to stop but nevertheless continue - West - can explain why addicts show reduced eating drives - addiction creates acquired drives that are hard to satisfy and have priority over other drives such as food

Problems - operant conditioning explains addiction in terms of consequences but Robinson and Berridge point out that many people take addictive drugs but only a few become addictss - suggests that other psychological factors are involved from the transition from consumption to addiction

Evolutionary value of occasional reinforcement - in real life the positive consequences are likely to be occasional rather than consistent because taking a drug or getting drunk will not always lead to a sense of relief - there is an evolutionary advantage to learning from occasional reinforcement - the world is an unpredictable place so organsims need to learn adaptive behaviours that on average work to their advantage

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Classical conditioning

Initiation - secondary reinforcers - stimuli that precede or occur at the same time as a learned stimulus such as a drug may become secondary reinforcers by association - for example - alcohol-related stimuli such as pub sounds elicit the same physiological responses as alcohol - Gaultier also in the context of smoking - smoking and socialising become linked and the joy of nicotine becomes associated with good times - so even when the friends are not present the nicotine will be seen as a happy trigger and so reminds them of the good times when smoking was linked with socialising

maintenance and relapse - UCS - drug - leads to a disequilibrium -UCR - as the drug challenges the bodys internal regulation - stimulus accompanying drug dose becomes a CS leading to a compensatory response from the body in anticipation of the effects of the drug - if this occurs in the absence of the anticipated drug the body is in a state of disequilibrium - individual experiences this as withdrawal and is motivated to take drug to alleviate symptoms

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Classical conditioning

Research support - classical conditioning suggests that the cues associated with the drug taking is an important factor in the maintenance of addiction - evidence shows that in the absense of the CS - the cues - people cease to be addicted - for example soldiers who became addicted to heroin in Vietnam had fewer problems with relapse when returning home as the cue was no longer present - compared to heroin addicts who tend to return to the same environment in which they had developed their addiction

Real - world application - Drummond - propsed cue exposure as a form of treatment where the cues assiciated with the drug taking are presented without the opportunity to engage in the drug-taking behaviour - leads to a phenomenom known as stimulus discrimination - as without the reinforcement provided by the drug the association between the cue and the drug taking is eliminated

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Social learning theory - SLT

Initiation - extends the ideas of classical and operant conditioning - SLT explains addiction in terms of outcome expectancies - the consequences of drug use may be direct or vicarious, positive or negative - leads to individuals to recongnise the different drugs that have different types of effect and so have different outcome expectancies

Maintenance and relapse - the fact that drugs have positive and negative effects means users are motivated to both approach a drug  to gain the positive effects and avoid a drug to avoid its negative effects - creates approach-avoidance conflict - addicts have learned through classical conditioning to associate cues with the drug - Marlatt and george propose the presence of multiple cues arouses the positive outcome expectancies which then triggers a motivation to use the drug once more

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Research support - DiBlasio + benda - peer group influences are the primary influence for adolescents - adolescents who smoke are more likely to hang out with other adolescents who smoke - this tendancy to conform to the norms of a reference group has lead to treatment programmes such as resistance training where adolescents are taught skills to resist influences of other adolescents smoking - botvin 

SLT and internet addiction - Lin - studied internet addiction in students 4500 (quite large sample size - individual differences no likely to affect results) Taiwan - (culture bias? cannot assume the results from this study will reflect results from other countries or assume that they will have the same results - they may have a different type of lifestyle such as they could spend shorter hours in lessons giving them more of an opportunity to go on the internet) - students - (have to be careful when generalising results as students may have certain characteristics that influence their internet addiction which may not represent other ages - also other ages may have problems with internet addiction so from these results we cannot assume that it is only students who have a problem) - positive outcome expectancy predicted the level of internet addiction - but this was mediated by a second factor, belief in ones ability to resist, which was negatively related to the level of ones addiction

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Among adults - those who smoke more frequently have less confidence in their ability to abstain and among adolescents self-efficacy predicts the onset of smoking and progression from experimental to regular use - Lawrance

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A03 for learning models of addiction

Reductionist - learning models of addiction try and simplify very complex phenomenoms - example - They account for some aspects of addiction but they do not take sufficient account of the fact that humans are thinking beings and do not respond to simple stimulus response, like animals do such as Pavlovs dogs

It ignores the role of biological aspects in addiction such as a predisposition of vulnerability - nurture side of the argument

Biological approach may be better in explaining addiction - although some people have a genetic predisposition, cues in the environment are needed to trigger the development of addiction - these triggers could be due to classical conditioning such as the association of drinking in the pub

neither conditioning explanation is sufficient on its own - classical conditioning is good at explaining maintenance and relapse but not initiation and operant conditioning maintenance and relapse but not initiation as smoking tastes unpleasant the first time so there is no reward - doesnt explain why people start smoking as there is no pleasure 

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